Health, Healing & Hummingbirds

Scientific information on improving serious disease through nutrition and treating the causes of disease
 – summarised from 100 of the world’s most cutting-edge health books

Managing and treating sleep issues

Sleep is really important for your health. Living in sync with your circadian rhythms is vital for your health too.


Light affects cortisol rhythms and when cortisol goes up, melatonin levels go down. Sleeping and having bright light exposures at random times of day creates hormonal havoc in your body. Our bodies have evolved to do best with natural light patterns and fairly set sleep and wake cycles based on these light patterns. Certain maintenance tasks are done by the body at certain times of night and if you're still awake at those times they may not occur as they should and your health may suffer.


Getting enough sleep is also important. Poor sleep and lack of sleep can make you hungry for high carbohydrate foods all day and can contribute to poor blood sugar control and weight gain. Sleep also controls your metabolism. ATP is only made when in REM sleep and sleep can also affect your gut flora.


Sleep and sleep-rhythms control and affect so much in the body!


For great information on sleep see articles by Ameer Rosic, Dan Pardi, Lights Out: Sugar, Sleep and Survival by T. Wiley and many others. A brief summary:


* If you're doing exercise, try and do it before 3 pm.


* Start winding down for the day around 6 pm. Maybe stay off the computer after 6 pm.


* Don't eat after 8.30 or drink much after this time so you don't have to get up to urinate in the night. Avoid large meals after 6 pm. Avoid high-carbohydrate foods at night to avoid hypoglycaemic effects during the night.


* Turn the lights down low after 8.30. Avoid looking at bright tablet, computer or phone screens.


* If you want to you can spent 20 minutes meditating and/or have a magnesium oil or epsom salt (magnesium) bath before bed to relax you for sleep. Some light reading can also be good before bed.


* Go to bed at 10 or 10.30 pm every night, all year round. So you can get to sleep before 11 pm (ideally).


* Make your bedroom as dark as possible. (If you want to be hardcore you can also buy orange or red globes or blue-blocking glasses so that when you go to the bathroom in the night it wont wake you up so much, or you can go to the toilet in complete darkness, but it's not really necessary.) Your bedroom should also not be too warm. A slightly cool room promotes deeper sleep.


* Sleep until you wake up naturally. If possible, don't use an alarm clock. If you have to use an alarm use a gentle one that wakes you up gently and gradually.


* Spent at least half an hour a day outside, in natural light. Some skin exposure to sunlight is good, but avoid sunburn.


Working on good sleeping habits is a very mundane and unexciting thing to do but can have a big impact on your health especially if you have autoimmune, metabolic or hormonal issues or are trying to heal from any disease. Make sleep a priority.



Sleep issues

Just as with the problem of chronic pain, treating chronic sleep issues is complex because there are many different causes and so many different cures.

Treating sleep issues is the same as treating the cause of the underlying disease itself.

Many of the causes of pain can also cause sleeplessness, as can pain itself.

Causes of pain which can also cause sleep issues include:

  • Eating foods from the nightshade family.

  • Food allergies.

  • Nutrient deficiencies. 

  • A high ‘total load’ on the body. Lowering the body’s total load means reducing the amount of stress and detoxification your body has to do. It encompasses avoiding problematic or allergenic foods, avoiding unnecessary drugs, eating a nutrient-dense diet, fixing digestion or constipation issues, avoiding toxic chemicals as much as possible in personal care and cleaning products and in your home and work environments, as well as getting adequate rest, food and sleep. The body’s total load can also be lowered with improved nutrition and with high-quality detoxification programs.

  • Heavy metal toxicity. 

 


As with pain treatment, foods, supplements and therapies which can be helpful for pain include:


Vitamin C. Dr Rogers recommends working out your bowel tolerance dose of vitamin C and then taking an amount just below the amount that causes loose stools. How much vitamin C you need will depend on how ill you are and your own biochemical individuality.  Vitamin C helps the body heal but also works to reduce pain in the short-term as well. How to work up to a bowel tolerance dose of ascorbic acid is explained in detail elsewhere on the HH&H site.

 

Vitamin D. Dr Rogers recommends regular tests of vitamin D levels and that supplemental vitamin D be taken if the test shows a level lower than 70 ng/ml.

 

Omega 3s, vitamins, A, K and D from cod liver oil.

 

Magnesium. Adequate magnesium is essential for pain sufferers or anyone experiencing sleeplessness or poor quality sleep. For some people just correcting a low magnesium level is enough to stop sleep problems by itself. Magnesium allows the muscles to relax. Magnesium oil baths, or Epsom salt baths, before bed may aid sleep.

 

B vitamins. The  B vitamins have many functions in the body and are involved in the health of the nervous system. Low vitamin B levels may increase pain levels. B vitamins should not be taken at night if they cause sleeplessness.


A basic supplementation regime. Vitamin E, glutathione, lipoic acid, phosphidatyl choline and other supplements are also useful for improving detoxification and the health of the cell and cell membranes.

 

 

Simple things to try first if you have problem sleeping

Improve your sleep 'hygeine' and make sure to avoid the computer after 6 pm, as described above.


Try taking melatonin an hour before bed. Start a dose of 500 mcg and only work up to a higher dose if this is needed. Slow release may be the best type. In the US and some other countries this can be bought online easily, while in countries such as Australia a doctor's script is needed. Melatonin helps many people sleep better and can also help normalise a reversed sleep/wake cycle. It doesn't work for some people though unfortunately and some health experts say that it can make health worse by inhibiting feedback mechanisms and so should be taken for only a few weeks at most – just long enough to reset the sleep/wake cycle.


Vitamin B12, magnesium and CoQ10 (ubiquinol) can have a remarkable and very positive effect on sleep initiation and quality. Ashwagandha, L-tryptophan and inositol (at a dose of 1 – 2 g) can also greatly improve sleep and let you go to sleep more easily. Niacin taken at night can also improve sleep.




Issues with sleep drugs

There are many well-known risks to taking sleep drugs. Within just a few weeks of taking them you can become unable to sleep without them. Patients must educate themselves on these risks and how to minimise them and then make their own choices on the risk to benefits ratios of using these drugs for themselves.

 

Sleep drugs should always be a last resort and only used in the short-term.

Treating the reversed sleep/wake cycle in M.E.

The reversed sleep/wake cycle common in M.E. may be treated with nightly melatonin. Dosages usually range from 300 mcg, to 3 mg. Start at a low dose and work up slowly only if you need to.


Evidence indicates methylcobalamin has some metabolic and therapeutic applications not shared by the other forms of vitamin B12. Methyl B12 has also been shown to help reset the sleep/wake cycle. The effect with methylcobalamin can be very strong so make sure you start at a low dose and work up!

 

Light exposure in the morning can also be helpful although very few M.E. patients will be able to tolerate this, unfortunately, due to photophobia and seizure issues. But even spending a bit of time outside when you can at any time of day is still going to have a beneficial effect, along with avoiding strong artificial light at night.


Avoiding overexertion is key to sleeping well if you have M.E. This including being very strict about turning the lights down low hours before bedtime, having a regular 10 pm bedtime, and avoiding the computer or other stimulating tasks or eating large meals past 6 pm.

 

Additional notes: ‘Benzo’ drugs may reduce melatonin and NSAIDS suppress melatonin. B12 deficiencies have been shown to suppress melatonin production. Deficiencies of magnesium, B1 and B6 may also reduce melatonin levels since these nutrients are essential in activating the enzymes that facilitate production of serotonin and melatonin. A warm bath before bed raises melatonin slightly. This information is taken from the references listed in the main vitamin B paper. M.E. expert Dr Dowsett’s Special Feature on sleep problems may also be useful to read if you have M.E..